Branch Ideas

Business, Product, and Marketing Support for Education Innovators

Education vs. Training

by Denise Wydra

This scene from the movie “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” has been pivotal for me. I believe so strongly that education can–and must be–more than job training. Or more than the indoctrination and “intrusion” that Brodie talks about here.

Education (certainly, “liberal education”) is about the “leading out” of the best in a person so that she or he can engage with the world on smarter, better terms. The cultivation of an active, critical mind, well equipped to work with others to solve important problems.

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Visual Design as a Business Process … or, Design for Desperate Non-designers: Part 2

by Denise Wydra

Everyone in charge of a small business or project will at some point have the lone responsibility for designing a flyer, presentation, business card, or some sort of promotional piece. No designer. No budget. For many, this can be a moment of frustration, even desperation. Surrounded as we are by advertising and the visual delights of the internet, we all see continuous streams of cool designs created by talented and skilled designers. And when we compare our capabilities to theirs, we’re tempted to throw our hands up and resign ourselves to mediocrity.

But there’s another way to think of it.

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Visual Design as a Business Process … or, Design for Desperate Non-designers: Part 1

by Denise Wydra

OK, maybe you’re not desperate. But you know you need to fix your flyer or presentation deck, you can’t afford the time or money for a professional designer, and you haven’t a clue how to do it yourself.

Actually, you do. You read, notice, and respond to visual and textual messages all day. One of the best ways to build your design skills is to stop and notice your own habits and preferences. What looks cool to you? What did you notice first—and why? How can you tell something is professional vs. fly-by-night? Established authority vs. a fresh voice?

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The Problem with EdTech Entrepreneurs


by Denise Wydra

What’s the Achilles’ heel of many edtech entrepreneurs? They’re brilliant and successful.

It’s not their fault, of course. Through a combination of natural ability, hard work, and outstanding support, they’ve come to excel in their chosen areas. But this means they may be unaware of what it’s like to be an average college student in the U.S.—and even less knowledgeable about the students who stand to gain the most from educational technology.

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We Need New Paradigms–Now

Philo_medievBy Denise Wydra

Our public conversations about education are mired in the past. I’m not talking about the 19th century–I’m talking about the 5th century B.C.E.

Ancient Athens is perhaps an arbitrary starting point, but it fostered an early incarnation of the Western educational system, complete with professional teachers, formal schools, and familiar disciplines. A full education was reserved for free males, the obvious reason being that they were the only ones whose voices mattered. But don’t overlook the other assumptions: in this world, education was a limited resource (only so many tutors to go around) and a costly investment (every hour reading was an hour not working). And only some people could–or should–benefit from it.

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How Competency Based Education Will Drive Changes in Assessment

By Denise Wydra

With a simple change of routine, my third-grade teacher transformed my understanding of school. Each day, Miss Meloche listed the required work on the blackboard. The pace, sequence, and method for getting through these activities was up to us. And when we were done: free time! (Well, not completely free. But burrowing into a book of my choice was heaven for a bookworm like me.) My teacher was a constant presence, helping the kids who needed it and making sure we were all staying on track. I remember her talking with each of us individually, just about every day.

Words cannot convey my disappointment upon starting fourth grade. Once more, seat time and lockstep progression became the norm, serving to frustrate and disengage 75% of the students at any one time.

My third-grade class was a limited experiment in Competency Based Education (CBE), but some basic dynamics were there.

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